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Operators Assist Port of Rotterdam in Next Phase of Airspace Management

The Port of Rotterdam is making significant strides in managing drone flights over its territory. The successful launch of the WebApp for flight area requests, complemented by feedback from drone operators, has led to valuable insights and continuous improvements. Efforts have been made to enhance the visibility of both ship positions and manned air traffic within the UTM system of Airwayz.

Valuable Insights

The data gathered from registrations provide crucial insights into airspace utilization, including flight durations, preferred flying altitudes, and peak times. These insights contribute to a better understanding and management of drone activities. Notably, 8% of the applications required minor adjustments to avoid conflicts with other submissions, demonstrating the system’s effectiveness in preventing operational disruptions.

Responding to user feedback, the maximum duration for flight applications has been temporarily extended to five hours. This adjustment simplifies planning for operators, allowing them to cover a full day with just two applications, although it does not necessarily encourage more efficient airspace utilization. As the volume of applications grows, accurately specifying time periods becomes increasingly critical.

Operators are encouraged to check the WebApp for airspace updates and any operational changes before their flights. Moreover, the Port of Rotterdam advocates for direct integration with the UTM system, either through the drones’ operating systems or supportive flight software. This push towards direct connectivity promises seamless operations and real-time data exchange. Information on direct integration via SDK/API is available upon request from the Port of Rotterdam.

Combined Overview of Drones and Ship Data

Integrating ship data into the UTM system using public AIS data offers a comprehensive view of both drones and ships’ positions. This synergy enables the Port Authority to develop an integrated perspective of drone flight areas relative to ship movements and positions.

Looking ahead, the creation of more specific policies for flying near or above ships, especially those transporting hazardous materials, will require the enriched data from the Port Authority. This information, detailing ship types and their cargoes, aims to enhance the safety and efficiency of drone operations in maritime settings further.

Electronic Visibility of Manned Aviation

The installation of an ADS-B and FLARM receiver, in collaboration with Aeret and Mapture, will improve the detection of manned air traffic around the port. These initial receivers, positioned at a radar post at the end of the Rozenburg peninsula, cover both the port entrance and a portion of the U-Space area. Data from these receivers, as far as ADS-B is utilized onboard, are now also visible in the Airwayz system via JSON, ensuring reliability through proprietary source data.

Mark de Haan from Aeret will monitor the antenna’s coverage at low altitudes over the coming period. Following an initial trial, the decision to deploy additional receivers in the area will be based on the collected data and the antenna’s trial performance.

In addition, the Port Authority, in collaboration with the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), the ANWB, and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W), has initiated a study to analyze historical data of manned air traffic. This analysis aims to assess traffic density and the likelihood of encounters between manned and unmanned traffic in the U-space area, a critical step in developing strategies to ensure the safety of all airspace users.

Reports from drone operators about commercial helicopters routinely flying below the minimum altitude have prompted action at the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT). These incidents highlight the importance of strict adherence to regulations and the potential need for further investigation into these violations.

Dynamic No-Fly Zone

The Port Authority has also engaged in discussions with NHV, the helicopter service provider for the Rotterdam Pilot Service in Pistoolhaven, focusing on enhancing safety for both helicopter pilots and drone operators. The conversation aims to establish a dynamic no-fly zone activated when helicopters are taking off or landing, effectively keeping drone traffic outside the zone during these times.

The introduction of dynamic no-fly zones marks a preliminary step towards the development of the USSP geo-awareness service.

Event on March 5

Operators active in the U-space area interested in these developments are invited to a demonstration day on March 5. For more details, please refer to the program. Pre-registration is required due to capacity constraints.


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Ingrid Römers

Ingrid Römers is the U-space project leader at the Port of Rotterdam.

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